PHOTO: New Bridge City head coach Dwayne DuBois sends in the next play with Cardinal quarterback Camden DuBois. RECORD PHOTO: Mark Dunn

By Gerry L. Dickert
For The Record

With a new head coach and coming off a 2-8 season in 2014, the Bridge City Cardinals desperately needed to make a statement about what is in store for the 2015 football campaign.

The Cards’ made their point, loud and clear, this past Friday night against the top-ranked Kirbyville Wildcats as BC took a 24-21 decision over the home team ’Cats.

“I’m so proud of them,” head coach Dwayne DuBois said of his players. “It’s confidence. They’re coming off a tough season last year. Winning this first game gives them the confidence to believe in what they’re doing.

“Our guys will walk a little prouder in practice this week and we’ll take that confidence with us into the rest of the season,” he said. “Winning (against Kirbyville) was important for us.”

The Wildcats opened the game with a sustained march down the field, moving 92 yards in 12 plays with Dennis crossing from eight yards out for the 7-0 lead.

During that drive, the Cats faced two third down situations, both resolved by passing attempts. The first was a 12-yard connection between Gore and receiver Jalon Dennis. The next time the Wildcats faced a third down, a Bridge City defensive interference call was the answer Kirbyville needed.

On the ensuing drive by the Cardinals, playing with a short field after a Kirbyville unsportsmanlike foul, the Cards drove 58 yards in 10 plays with Cayce Draper doing the lion’s share of the work. Draper ran the ball five times for 40 yards in the drive but it was Patrick Morris who found the end zone from the 7 yard line. The extra-point kick tied the score at 7 apiece.

“Kirbyville came out and zip, zip, zip and scored. They’re explosive and they’re fast,” DuBois said. “For us to come back and methodically move down the field, it was really big for us to be able to match their score with a score.”

Kirbyville was quick to respond, moving 75 yards in just six plays, one being a 38-yard rip. Beaty finished the drive with a 16-yard run for the score. A bobbled snap on the PAT left Kirbyville up 13-7 with 1:03 left in the first quarter.

The two teams swapped punts for the only time in the half with Bridge City taking over at its own 29 midway through the second quarter.

After Morris took off on a 20-yard run to start the drive, DuBois completed his first pass of the game, a 35-yard strike to Kane Booth. Morris picked up 16 more, setting up DuBois for the 4-yard push up the middle. Heraldes booted the extra point for the Cardinals’ 14-13 lead.

The Cardinals took a 21-13 lead thanks to an interception return by Zach Honeycutt. With Kirbyville driving for what would have been the go-ahead points midway through the third quarter, Honeycutt nabbed a Kirbyville pass near the goal line, sprinting 99 yards for the Bridge City TD and the lead.

In the fourth quarter, Kirbyville earned new life after a Bridge City fumble, one of the Cards’ few mistakes in the game.

It took the ’Cats just 12 plays to go 82 yards for the score with Beaty doing the work with six runs for 34 yards, including the one-yard scoring jaunt. Beaty bulled in for the 2-point conversion and the game was tied with 6:49 left.

On the ensuing possession, BC ran the ball 12 straight times, burning the clock and marching to the 4 yard line where Alfredo Heraldes booted a 25-yard field goal to give the Cards the 24-21 advantage. Morris finished with 125 yards on 13 carries with Draper adding 114 yards on 20 carries.

In tune with their performance throughout the night, Bridge City’s defense stood strong down the stretch, denying Kirbyville anything on its final drive, forcing the Cats to turn the ball over on downs and ending the game.

“We have high expectations,” head coach Greg Neece said. “We hate losing. The feeling of losing is not a good one for our kids, our coaches or for our community. We expect to win.”

The Wildcats collected 386 total yards, compared to 333 total yards for the Cardinals. Quarterback Jackson Gore led the ’Cats in offensive production with an 11 of 23 passing night for 172 yards. Devin Tyler was his top receiver with 5 catches for 77 yards.

“We threw the ball well and that’s going to be one of our strengths this year,” Neece said. “We have tall receivers who can run, we have short receivers who can run, we have kids who can come out of the backfield and catch the ball.”

And while the pass-and-catch game kept the Wildcats moving up and down the field, it was the running game that got them into the end zone.

Ty Dennis got into the end zone on a 12-yard run to start the scoring for the ’Cats, while Patrick Beaty added TD runs of 16 yards and 1 yard. Dennis, Kirbyville’s top returning back, will miss the next two to three weeks after being knocked unconscious during the second quarter against Bridge City.

“I was there on the field, trying to get him to squeeze my hand and he wouldn’t squeeze my hand,” Neece said of Dennis’ injury. “That was a scary time; he was unresponsive. Something like that puts everything into perspective.”

Dennis was back in the fieldhouse Saturday morning, Neece said. “He was in there with that big grin,” he said. “He told me he didn’t remember a thing.”

After Dennis’ injury, Beaty played an inspired second half, accounting for the two scores in the third and fourth quarters, as well as a two-point conversion run that tied the game with 6:49 left.

“Patrick tried to put everybody on his back and carry us to a win,” Neece said. “He responded in a great way and really showed the kind of effort we needed to win that game. It was a contagious thing for all of us.”

Dennis led the Wildcat rushing game with 102 yards on 13 carries before his injury, while Beaty had 81 yards on 20 carries.

“Our defense bent but it didn’t break,” Neece said. “We only gave up two offensive TDs, although we did allow them to drive and kick the field goal. We’re missing five key guys on defense because of graduation. Bridge City found a couple of spots where they could attack us and they did that well.”

The ’Cats travel to Orangefield this Friday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, while Bridge City hosts Newton with kickoff at 7:30.